N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Life can't go back to normal, epidemiologist says

N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Life can’t go back to normal, epidemiologist says

COVID-19 might be on the verge of disappearing in New Brunswick, but that doesn’t mean life can go back to normal, an Ontario epidemiologist says. 

There have been no COVID-19 cases detected in New Brunswick over the past four days, keeping the number of confirmed cases at 118. Only 14 active cases of the virus remain.

“It seems to be pretty much done as far as New Brunswick is concerned,” said Colin Furness, infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto. 

But many provinces across Canada don’t yet have the virus under control.

To date, there are close to 21,000 confirmed cases of COVID‑19 in Quebec. In neighbouring Nova Scotia, there are close to 800 cases of COVID-19 and in the state of Maine, there are more than 900.

This means New Brunswick will have to continue to take a cautious approach, especially once the province eases up on its emergency measures, which could be as early as the first week of May. 

“The moment we let our guard down, more cases are going to start walking into the province, driving into the province, flying into the province,” said Furness.

The total number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick remains at 118, with no new cases announced on Wednesday. (CBC)

Furness said China saw many days without new cases, started to open up travel, only to see new cases because of that travel.

“How are we going to manage travel? That’s a national conversation that hasn’t happened yet.”

Here’s a roundup of other developments.

Province to share virus update Thursday afternoon 

Premier Blaine Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, will be providing an update on the COVID-19 outbreak.

Higgs and Russell will be speaking with reporters in Fredericton at 2:30 p.m.

One person is still in an intensive care unit, and four other people are also in hospital. 

Premier Blaine Higgs updates the public on the coronavirus in New Brunswick weekdays at 2:30 p.m. (CBC)

At a briefing Wednesday afternoon, Russell said no one has been admitted to hospital since April 12.

New Brunswick has seen 13 people hospitalized since the outbreak began.

UNB nursing students graduate early to help fight COVID-19

A total of 92 fourth-year nursing students from the University of New Brunswick’s Saint John and Fredericton campuses, graduated early this year to help fight against COVID-19. 

The Nursing Association of New Brunswick has provided these graduates with a temporary licence, meaning they can be immediately hired to work in the health-care system.

Nursing students from the University of New Brunswick graduated early this year so they could join the health-care system in its fight against COVID-19. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“We are extremely proud of our nursing graduates who have joined healthcare workers on the front lines to assist in keeping New Brunswickers safe during this crisis,” Dr. Paul Mazerolle, president and vice-chancellor of the University of New Brunswick, said in a news release. 

Because of the pandemic, university campuses in New Brunswick were effectively closed, operating under essential services only.

However, students continued to learn online. For nursing, components of clinical learning were delivered virtually.

UNB is in discussions with the province about what kind of supplies it can offer at this time, including gloves, goggles, masks, face shields, gowns and alcohols.

Newcomers struggle for groceries, medication in pandemic

The Multicultural Association of Greater Moncton is calling on residents to support newcomers who are struggling during the pandemic. 

Myriam Mekni, executive director of the association, said the COVID-19 outbreak has been challenging for newcomers on many different levels.

“It’s a really difficult time for them,” she said. “Especially for the reason they are newcomers to the region.”

Some newcomers don’t have enough money for food and medication or have no access to transportation, while others who only recently arrived had to go into quarantine and were unable to leave home.

“They were alone here.”

Mekni said international students are also struggling, and are trying to figure out what kind of funding they can receive from the federal and provincial governments.

“They really had a hard time to navigate this. Not just financially, even on a mental health level.”

Mekni said her team of volunteers started out as a group of nine, but has expanded to 20 people delivering food.

She said the association is looking for financial help for its food program, a small vehicle to transport food and money for craft supplies for parents to entertain their children.  

“We don’t know how long this is going to be.”

Golf industry could take a hit from COVID-19

Golf courses in New Brunswick are trying to find ways to maintain physical distancing once businesses start opening up again.  

Wade LePage, manager of golf operations at the Covered Bridge Golf and Country Club in Hartland, expects to see clarification in the next 10 days about when and how the province will let courses like his resume operations.

LePage has been looking at other jurisdictions, including British Columbia, which have kept courses open with restrictions.

“We’ve kind of looked at other courses and seen what they’ve done, so we’re kind of ready for when the day does come,  [with some] systems that will work to keep social distancing on the golf course,” said LePage.

New Brunswickers will now be able to access their COVID-19 test results online, said chief medical officer of health Jennifer Russell on Tuesday. 1:50

Restrictions could include one person per cart, not touching flags along the greens and limiting the number of people inside the pro shop.

LePage said the course will be ready to open, once the province lifts restrictions.  

Although many golf courses typically open around the middle of May, LePage said restrictions could force his golf course to lose money this summer.

“Probably 50 per cent of our revenue is driven by our cottages and our stay and fly packages,” said LePage. 

“So the odds of being able to put four golfers in a cottage this summer, and having them golf for three days, you know is quite remote right now, looking at it. So it could be real bad for us.”

Before the province issued its state of emergency last month, the Carmen Creek Golf Course was filled with bookings. Many of those have been cancelled or postponed after the restrictions were announced.

Terry Avery, owner of the Fredericton golf course, said the holes aren’t ready to open just yet because the course is on a floodplain and still under water.

However, the driving range would’ve been open for about 20 days by now.  

“We’re basically just doing mechanical work in the shop,” Avery said. “We have one person in the shop, where normally we’d have a couple.”

Avery said the Fredericton course would implement whatever measures the province asks so it can open safely.

“The last thing we want is somebody getting [COVID-19] on a golf course in New Brunswick.”

What to do if you have symptoms

People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment on the government website. Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, a new or worsening cough, and breathlessness, as well as sore throat, headache and runny nose. People with two of those symptoms are asked to:

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